Friday 9 October 2015

STALIN: a former monster from Russia                    

If you think that Vladimir Putin is a monster, he is a kitten compared to Joseph Stalin who was the leader of the Soviet Union (Russia) from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953.  By holding onto the post of the General secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he was effectively the dictator of Russia. He got that appointment in 1922.

He launched a period of industrialization and collectivization that resulted in the rapid transformation of the USSR (Russia) from an agrarian society into an industrial power. That was a good idea considering that he needed factories to build armaments to fight Hitler’s armies that invaded Russia in 1941.  

However, the cost in human lives in his collectivization (seizing) of the farms throughout the Ukraine (which was part of Russia) was enormous. The initial upheaval in the agriculture disrupted food production had contributed to the catastrophic Soviet famine of 1932–33, known as the Holodomor in Ukraine. It has been estimated that as many as 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians, with millions more counted in demographic estimates had subsequently starved to death.                                                               

It is interesting to note that he didn’t seize the farms of other Russian farmers in the rest of Russia. The reason was probably because the Ukraine was the breadbasket of Europe.

Stalin is mostly remembered for his purges which began with a complete re-organization of the political system of the Soviet Union. Opponents both in and outside of the Communist party were dealt with and punishments ranged from expulsion from the party to execution in  a great many cases.

Many people in Russia felt that death would have been merciful when they were sentenced to life in a Gulag Labour Camp. Nearly 500 such camps and colonies were established in the Soviet Union, mainly in the remotest areas of Siberia and millions died in the extreme conditions. In the 1920s and 1930s, 2,000 writers, intellectuals, and artists were imprisoned and 1,500 died in prisons and concentration camps.

During the time he was in power, the lives of the Russians can be summed up by his own chilling quote, “One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” The most widely accepted figure of deaths brought about by this monster is around 20 million deaths while he was in power.

In 1939, the Western Allies knew that Stalin had murdered millions of his own people in cold blood and that Hitler, even though a despot, his death toll only by then had numbered in the thousands.  By the end of the Second World War, Hitler still murdered less than what Stalin had murdered.            

The Holocaust brought about by Hitler was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. It was initially carried out in German-occupied Europe by Einsatzgruppen paramilitary death squads, later the primary method of extermination was gassing in extermination camps.

Stalin hadn’t stepped that low in his murder of so many of his citizens but 20 million of his victims far exceeds what the Nazis under Hitler’s control did to the Jews and other so-called undesirables.

The term “purge” in  Soviet  political  slang  was an abbreviation of the expression purge of the Party ranks. In 1933, for example, the Party under Stalin’s leadership expelled some 400,000 people. But from 1936 until 1953, the term changed its meaning, because being expelled from the Party came to mean almost certain arrest, imprisonment and often execution.

The political purge was primarily an effort by Stalin to eliminate his challengers from past and potential opposition groups, including the left and right wings led by Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin, respectively.

In 1934, Stalin used the murder of Sergey Kirov as a pretext to launch the Great Purge, in which about a million people perished. Later, some historians came to believe that Stalin arranged the murder, or at least that there was sufficient evidence to reach such a conclusion. This reminds me of the burning of the German Reichstag (parliament building) on orders of Hitler as an excuse to get rid of the Communists and Jews.

Kirov was a staunch Stalin loyalist, but Stalin may have viewed him as a potential rival because of his emerging popularity among the moderates. The 1934 party congress elected Kirov to the central committee with only three votes against him—the fewest of any candidate, while Stalin received 292 votes against him. After Kirov's assassination, the NKVD under Stalin`s orders, charged the former oppositionists, an ever-growing group who despised Stalin, with Kirov's murder as well as a growing list of other offences, including treason, terrorism, sabotage, and espionage. Another justification for the purge was to remove any possible "fifth column" in case of a war.  Molotov and Kaganovich, participants in the repression as members of the Politburo, maintained this justification throughout the purge. They each signed many death warrants—again under Stalin`s orders.

Innocent people were also executed. For example, a family in Moscow received a package from Poland. Inside the package were clothes for the children. The children`s parents were then accused of espionage and sentenced to death. The father was executed first and 10 days later, the mother was executed.

Between 1936 and 1938, three very large Moscow Trials of former senior Communist Party leaders were held, in which they were accused of conspiring with fascist and capitalist powers to assassinate Stalin and other Soviet leaders, dismember the Soviet Union and restore capitalism. These trials were highly publicized and extensively covered by the outside world, which was mesmerized by the spectacle of Lenin's closest associates confessing to most outrageous crimes and begging for death sentences.

It is now known that the confessions were given only after great psychological pressure and torture had been applied to the defendants. From the accounts of former OGPU officer Alexander Orlov and others, the methods used to extract the confessions are known: such tortures as repeated beatings, simulated drownings, making prisoners stand or go without sleep for days on end, and threats to arrest and execute the prisoners' families. After months of such interrogation, the defendants were driven to despair and exhaustion.

Zinoviev and Kamenev demanded, as a condition for confessing, a direct guarantee from the Politburo that their lives and that of their families and followers would be spared. This offer was accepted, but when they were taken to the Politburo meeting, only Stalin, and two of his cronies were present. Stalin claimed that they were the "commission" authorized by the Politburo and gave assurances to the two men that their death sentences would not be carried out. After the trial, Stalin not only broke his promise to spare the defendants, he had most of their relatives arrested and shot.

Stalin`s purge of the Red Army and Military Maritime Fleet removed three of five field marshals (then equivalent to five-star generals), 13 of 15 army commanders (then equivalent to three and four-star generals), eight of nine admirals (the purge fell heavily on the Navy, who were suspected of exploiting their opportunities for foreign contacts), 50 of 57 army corps commanders, 154 out of 186 division commanders, 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars. Many of them were later executed. Thirty percent of officers purged in 1937–39 were allowed to return to service. When Hitler invaded Russia in 1941, those officers who were executed were no longer available to head the Russian armed forces in the fight against the German armed forces. 

Eventually almost all of the Bolsheviks who had played prominent roles during the Russian Revolution of 1917, or in Lenin's Soviet government afterwards, were executed under Stalin`s orders. Out of six members of the original Politburo, during the 1917 October Revolution who lived until the Great Purge, Stalin himself was the only one who remained in the Soviet Union, alive.

The orthodox clergy, including active parishioners, was nearly annihilated: 85% of the 35,000 members of the clergy were arrested. Particularly vulnerable to repression were also the so-called “special settlers” who were under permanent police surveillance and constituted a huge pool of potential “enemies” to draw on. At least 100,000 of them were arrested in the course of the Great Terror.

NKVD local officials were mandated to arrest and execute a specific number of "counter-revolutionaries," produced by upper officials based on various statistics.  The Polish operation also claimed the largest number of victims: 143,810 arrests and 111,091 executions, and at least eighty-five thousand of these were ethnic Poles.

During the late 1930s, Stalin dispatched NKVD operatives to the Mongolian People's Republic, established a Mongolian version of the NKVD troika, and proceeded to execute tens of thousands of people accused of having ties to "pro-Japanese spy rings." Buddhists made up the majority of victims, with 18,000 being killed in the Terror. Other victims were nobility and political and academic figures, along with some ordinary workers and herders. Mass graves containing hundreds of executed Buddhist monks and civilians have been discovered as recently as 2003.

All of these imprisonments and murders of millions of innocent people were done under the authority of Joseph Stalin, the monster of Russia. Like I said earlier in this article Putin is a kitten compared to Stalin, that wild animal who was the dictator of Russia before Putin. 

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